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Czechoslovak Rabbi Resigns Post After Confessing He Was Informer

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The Council of Czech Jewish Communities on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Rabbi Daniel Mayer from his post as rabbi of Prague and the Czechoslovak republic, following his confession last week that he had served as a government informant under the ousted Communist regime.

Mayer confessed to have signed a cooperation pledge for the Czechoslovak secret service a decade ago, at the age of 22.

The council took into consideration Mayer’s assurances that he had never knowingly done any harm to any individual and that he had done his best to serve the Jewish community. Nevertheless, it concluded that for moral and political reasons, the rabbi could not remain in his present post.

The Prague Jewish congregation, however, offered to employ Mayer, the only person in the country with a rabbinical degree, in its ritual questions division, allowing him to work as a teacher of religion and the Hebrew language.

Mayer received his ordination from the Rabbinical Seminary in Budapest, the major rabbinical school in Eastern Europe. It was in 1979, during Mayer’s second year at the seminary, that he was recruited by the secret service.

Without consulting the council and his congregation, Mayer had decided to run as a candidate in the parliamentary elections held earlier this month. During inquiries into the histories of all candidates running for seats in the new parliament, Mayer’s cooperation pledge to the Communist secret police came to light.

Once the information was revealed, Mayer admitted his role and withdrew his candidacy.

Mayer’s removal from the post creates a problem for Prague’s Jews, according to Desider Galsky, president of the Czech Jewish community.

“We need a rabbi, but prior to Mr. Mayer’s taking up of the rabbi’s post, we had not had any for about 10 years,” Galsky said in an interview.

A rabbi from abroad may be invited to serve temporarily in Prague, if the problems of language and finances can be overcome.

Galsky also mentioned possibly hiring the writer Karol Sidon, who had to leave Czechoslovakia years ago as a signatory of the Charter 77 human rights document, which President Vaclav Havel also signed as a dissident playwright.

After leaving the country, Sidon studied at the Jewish studies department of Heidelberg University in West Germany. He plans additional studies at Ariel Yeshiva in Jerusalem, which may qualify him to become the new Prague rabbi.

The Prague rabbinical post is a prestigious one, once held by Rabbi Yehudah Loew, the famous 16th-century rabbi who legend says created the Golem. Loew, famous for his Talmudic wisdom, was known by the acronym “Maharal.”

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